A newly filed federal lawsuit accuses two sitting judges of retaliatory acts and conduct that violates First Amendment rights.

A complaint was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Detroit by 53rd District Court Administrator Francine Zysk against 53rd District Court Judge Theresa Brennan and Livingston County Chief Judge Miriam Cavanaugh. Zysk alleges retaliation for her “subpoenaed, truthful testimony” during Brennan’s divorce proceedings in regard to infidelities and other scandalous behavior. The complaint refers to Brennan as a “bully of epic proportions” and states Cavanaugh has retaliated against Zysk on Brennan’s behalf, but also for various actions related to Zysk speaking out against her ex-husband in a divorce filing. It further states Cavanaugh indulges Brennan’s juvenile refusal to communicate with Zysk regarding court business, which creates more work for everyone.

Attorney Jim Fett represents Zysk and says all of the retaliation is tied to her telling the truth in two subpoenaed depositions during Brennan’s divorce proceedings about her philandering, and other antics both on and off the bench. Brennan is alleged to have engaged in extra-marital affairs with at least two individuals including now retired Michigan State Police Detective Sean Furlong, who presided over the highly publicized double murder trial of Jerome Kowalski in January of 2013. Furlong was the chief prosecution witness during the trial.

The federal complaint says Zysk confirmed the duration of Brennan’s affair with Furlong, after learning the two lied in their depositions about it. It states the divorce proceedings exposed conduct amounting to perjury, obstruction of justice, witness intimidation and violations of judicial ethics. Allegations stemming from that testimony against Brennan include drinking in chambers, utilizing court employees for personal benefit on county time and her reading a book to subordinates about fellatio titled “Blow Him Away”, among others.

The complaint alleges Brennan routinely intimidates and terrorizes court employees, litigants and attorneys. Fett tells WHMI there are so many things wrong with the situation, on so many different levels but stressed the suit only deals with employment issues and “the human carnage at the courthouse left by Judge Brennan and her antics”. Fett says Cavanaugh indulges Brennan’s toxic behavior and doesn’t do anything about it, so consequently Zysk and other employees have to tiptoe around on eggshells to avoid setting Brennan off, which he maintains is ridiculous.

The lawsuit is seeking damages in excess of $75,000 for damage to Zysk’s reputation in the community and economic loss, as well as emotional distress. A copy of complaint and full statement from Fett are attached. Requests for comment on the lawsuit have been placed with Brennan and Cavanaugh. No dates have been scheduled. Meanwhile, Brennan remains on the bench. The Judicial Tenure Commission determined it was in the public interest to acknowledge an investigation into the allegations is occurring, which is rare. (JM)